Route 1 construction continues to bring change, delays

By Dan Otis Smith | May 09, 2017
Source: facebook.com An illustration demonstrating how drivers should now park on Thomaston's Main Street.

Thomaston — Thomaston residents may have been surprised to find a new parking scheme set up in front of the Main Street business block, with the diagonal lines painted to face in the opposite direction.

A project update released by Audrey Lovering, a communications specialist hired by the town, described the new diagonal reverse parking drivers are being asked to adopt.

“Driving south (from Rockland) on Main Street, a driver will stop and back into the space,” the update reads. “This is very similar but easier than parallel parking. Traveling north (from the Warren direction) a driver may park on the right side of the street and walk across Main Street to the shops or drive in the alleyway or Beechwood Street and park in the large parking area behind the business block.”

Reasons given for the change include providing drivers who are leaving the spaces with a better view of traffic, putting a barrier between exiting passengers and the roadway and allowing loading and unloading to occur away from the middle of the road.

Jeraimie Finnemore, owner of Athens Pizzeria, said that while he and his employees park in the lot behind the block, he had been hearing complaints about the new parking orientation from customers on a daily basis. He said he could understand the safety reasoning behind the change, but then raised another issue that could present itself come summer.

"You have people coming into town who don't know," he said, and wondered whether crowded summer traffic conditions could result in disaster. "It's going to be a cluster."

Athens employees expressed skepticism about the safety benefits of the new orientation.

The scheme received a mixed response on the Thomaston Rte. 1 Project Facebook page, with some lambasting the idea, while others agreed that it could be safer than backing out into traffic.

Pollution Control Superintendent John Fancy said the parking change was part of the plan hashed out by the Department of Transportation and the town in meetings during the lead-up to the project. "It's not brand new," he said, adding that he expected it to become a more commonplace parking arrangement to improve safety.

Overall, the Route 1 construction project continues to bring traffic changes and delays and to rankle Main Street business owners.

Much of the action moved to the west end of town in the past week, with one-lane traffic and excavations under way near the intersection of Route 1 and Route 131. A drive through the area on the morning of May 5 revealed smooth two-way traffic through downtown, with a wait of about 10 minutes to enter single-lane traffic near F&A’s Market.

Many business owners, meanwhile, have complained that the construction, which started a year ago and is slated to continue until November, is hurting their businesses, and some have closed.

Cynthia Dean is one business owner who said she was impacted by the construction. Her pottery shop, Paint It Shoreself, where customers can purchase and paint their own pottery, just finished moving out of a Main Street storefront to Rockland two weeks ago.

“The construction is really what hurt us,” said Dean, adding that she was relieved to be out of the situation.

Paint It Shoreself’s new location opened May 1 at 193 Park St. in Rockland and will soon be open full-time.

Ryan Jones, owner of Thomaston Cafe on Main Street and Farmer Jones Organic farm on Beechwood Street, has strong feelings about the construction’s impact on his business.

“My head is exploding,” he said. “It is awful.”

The entrance to Thomaston Cafe has recently appeared blocked by concrete barriers, which Jones said made it difficult or impossible to get customers into the restaurant. He has even stronger feelings about what he said was rude behavior from some of the workers on the project, which was deterring customers.

Jones said he had complained to the DOT and Lane Construction, but that that had only made the problem worse.

“I don’t think the DOT or Lane are taking any of these concerns seriously,” he said.

Jones predicted a loss of $10,000 this year for the cafe. “We lost so much money last year. There have been days we couldn’t open because there was no access to the restaurant,” he said. On top of lost business, he said, those closures meant throwing away perishable items, equivalent to “throwing away cash.”

Still, Jones said he is committed to staying in Thomaston and he seems resigned to enduring the construction until its completion. “We can’t fight the state of Maine,” he said.

Businesses not as dependent on customers passing through town may understandably feel less of an impact. Hunter Grindle, owner of the Main Street gym Hybrid Fitness, which opened last September, said he hadn’t noticed much of an effect on business. “It’s not like we rely on foot traffic,” he said, though he added that members were sometimes late for their workouts.

The next two weeks of construction will be taking place in various spots along Route 1 in Thomaston, according to the schedule released by Lovering. Excavation and graveling are listed for the entire two weeks between Shibles Lane and Toll Bridge Road. Work on sidewalks and curbs, as well as driveway paving, are scheduled on the other side of town, from Green Street to Fish Street in stages.

Until June 4, crews will be replacing and repaving the road surface on the James Andrew Griffith Bridge near the town line between Thomaston and Warren, with work extending as far as Route 97.

And, in another change, the turning lane for drivers turning right onto Beechwood Street from Route 1 will eventually be eliminated and replaced with four parking spaces.

Thomaston Police Sgt. Tim Hoppe said in a written statement May 9 that the department is being proactive in monitoring traffic and enforcing speed limits. "Construction will continue through the summer," he wrote. "So be patient and allow extra time to come through town."

As part of a separate project, crews will also be improving the road surface on the Thomaston end of Old County Road, with work continuing until August. A DOT Midcoast region manager said last month that the work would have an impact on traffic conditions similar to a paving project. On May 8, one section of Old County Road was reduced to a single lane of traffic, with a wait of 10 to 15 minutes to pass through the area.

A call to a DOT spokesman for further information on the Route 1 project was not returned.

Reporter Dan Otis Smith can be reached at 594-4401 x123 or by email at dsmith@villagesoup.com.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Ben and Leslie Fuller | May 10, 2017 21:04

Mr. Smith, how many accidents have occurred while drivers were backing out those parking places?  DOT or the Thomaston Police Department must have data...say for the last 20 years.



Posted by: Wendy Sue Cox | May 10, 2017 09:19

Omg people I would feather back into a parking spot just I would do if I were parallel parking and know there are no vechiles behind me ready to hit me verses backing out into oncoming traffic especially as people pointed out with an oversized truck crossing into both lanes giving away to the risk of even more people hitting me. Why can't people see that backing out into traffic is a whole lot more dangerous then backing it into a parking spot.



Posted by: Maggie Trout | May 09, 2017 14:01

"What happens when a vehicle stops in traffic to parallel-park (as on Main Street in Rockland) and backs into a space?"  Answer: It is a risk.  Question:  what happens after a vehicle has parked nose-first in a diagonal space, and cannot see past a van parked upstream to back out slowly?  Answer:  The back-up lights are on and drivers are somewhat less likely to floor the gas pedal.  That "somewhat" is important.  It's like DOT decides everything based on algorithms and what "drivers do anyway."  It's like when they raised the speed limit to 70 mph, and actually stated, that it's what drivers do anyway.  At least the speed limit has been reduced again along one stretch -- but only after drivers got more encouragement and then justification for speeding.



Posted by: George Terrien | May 09, 2017 13:48

The question posed by Ms. Feyler:  "If driving south and wanting to back into parking space will the vehicles behind you stop and wait while you do so" deserves a simple answer.  What happens when a vehicle stops in traffic to parallel-park (as on Main Street in Rockland) and backs into a space?  Or, what happens after a vehicle has parked nose-first in a diagonal space, and cannot see past a van parked upstream to back out slowly?



Posted by: BETSY A FEYLER | May 09, 2017 12:45

If driving south and wanting to back into parking space will the vehicles behind you stop and wait while you do so.



Posted by: Maggie Trout | May 09, 2017 12:26

I know it is increasingly popular to back into parking spaces as though drivers need a quick getaway, but it is dangerous.  Often distracted while doing so, and with the preponderance of oversized pickup trucks and SUVS especially, there is a dead zone that cannot easily be seen, and the maneuver is often done with too much speed.  Should a child be behind the vehicle, or if someone is in a wheelchair, they may not be seen.  Children are killed when vehicles in their own driveways back up, and that has occurred again recently.  Drivers must be vigilant and check for safety.  It is also crazy to think that reversing into oncoming traffic from the nose out, is any better than with brakes-on warning lights a driver backing out into traffic.  Drivers must not continue to proceed as though no one else is, or should be on the road with them.  Other than that, residents and businesses in Thomaston have my sympathy.



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